We all remember the scaffold accident that happened near the end of Christmas Eve day at the end of 2009. Metron Construction Inc. had 5 employees on their swing stage and it broke sending 4 out of the 5 employees to their death, 13 stories below. The 5th employee received 2 broken legs and a crushed spine.
Eight work orders, including two stop work orders, were issued prior to the accident. (from Oct. 20 and Dec. 17) Metron complied with the orders and they were lifted shortly after. On Dec. 17, Metron was given three more orders. The ministry said a temporary structure constructed in front of the exit ramp of a parking garage needed to be rectified because it did not meet requirements. Later that day, the MOL returned and found the company was in compliance and lifted the stop-work order.
Since the accident, the ministry has ordered Metron to produce documentation on training records for fall protection training of workers and copies of all health and safety inspections conducted between Sept. 1st and Dec. 24th. It has also requested a list of swing stage rental companies used on the project, minutes of all health and safety meetings and all rental agreements between Metron and its suppliers.
The Ontario Federation of Labour called on Ontario’s attorney general to investigate whether criminal negligence was involved. Bill C45 was created so it can be allowed to lay criminal charges if a company causes death or a serious injury due to negligence. The Ontario government officials said it is the police who should decide whether charges of criminal negligence should be laid in the deaths.
The Westray Bill was definitely created to protect workers and is now part of the criminal code. Section 217.1 of the criminal code states, “Everyone, who undertakes, or has the authority to direct how a person does work or performs a task, is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.” (I teach Basic Certification, Level 1, which covers this)
In the event of a death at the workplace, the police are the first to investigate, and the MOL, awaits their finds. They do begin an investigation but allow the police the primary position. It is important to note that the police could be the OPP, the regional police, local police or the RCMP, depending or jurisdiction.
The latest on this case is that 61 charges have been laid so far including manslaughter. Bill C45 and its purpose will be under severe scrutiny. It will be interesting to note where the charges lead and to see the final disposition of them. I hope we do not see that the charges will be thrown out of court like we did at Westray in or we recently saw in Alberta in the death of a 16 year forklift victim. Life is too precious and a worker’s life is the responsibility of the employer, in any jurisdiction.
The Ontario Federation of Labour should already be aware that Bill C45 directs the police, not the government. The government cannot act until the police have concluded their investigation.
By the way, the 5th employee, the unlucky one that lived through this, has a lawsuit pending against Metron and Swing-N-Staff, the owner of the swing stage. I believe the lawsuit is for 16.5 million dollars. His lifetime healthcare will cost at least that much.
Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer